Jesus... listen to this interview.
Terry Gross wanted to know when Hillary Clinton changed her mind on marriage equality and how much time elapsed between Clinton's private shift on marriage equality and her public endorsement of marriage equality. Clinton wouldn't answer the question. Gross put it to her again and again—ten times!—and never really got a straight answer out of Clinton. (BuzzFeed has the recording and the transcript.) It wasn't a trick question: of course there's going to be some lag time between when a politician—or anyone else—changes her mind on an issue and when a politician is ready to announce that she's changed her mind. And, yes, some political calculations are going to come into play. No one believes Hillary Clinton woke up one day, realized she now supported marriage equality, and immediately ran out of the house screaming, "I've changed my mind! I'm for marriage equality! I'm for marriage equality!"
Just as no one believes, of course, that Barack Obama actually opposed marriage equality in 2008 when he was running for president. Obama had endorsed same-sex marriage earlier in his political career and marriage equality isn't an issue that people "evolve" back and forth on. But Obama made a political calculation—and it was one that gays and lesbians ultimately benefited from. As I said repeatedly back when gay bloggers, activists, and writers were pressing the president to "evolve already," the president pretended to oppose marriage equality and we pretended to believe him. Hence the pressure. The president's evolution on marriage equality was a lovely piece of political performance art. And by the time Obama was ready to publicly endorse marriage equality—another calculated decision on his part—Obama had managed to bring a lot of the country along with him. So, as it turned out, the president's political calculations were pretty fucking sound.
Clinton seemed offended by the suggestion that there was anything calculated about her decision to announce her support for marriage equality. Now I think her support is sincere. And I believe that, unlike Obama, Clinton's opposition to marriage equality was sincere too. Clinton was the one who evolved on this issue! Perhaps Clinton felt that Gross was suggesting that her support for marriage equality was an insincere political calculation? Or maybe she reacted defensively to the suggestion that she had made a political calculation about when to reveal her support. "Political calculation" is not usually compliment. But as we saw with Obama, politically calculated decisions aren't always a bad thing.
And I, for one, would be fascinated to hear what went into Clinton's decision to publicly endorse marriage equality—the political considerations and calculations, which are real, as well as the personal considerations. And no one expects a politician not to make political calculations… but voters will punish any politician who admits to making political calculations. So maybe the question Gross was asking is the one that can only be answered in a future memoir. Because it may be impossible to get someone who's running for president to admit to ever having made a single politically calculated decision in her life.